Finding Acceptance in the Canyon
Finding Acceptance in the Canyon
Juggling family and work life can be hard enough for most of us. But what happens when your titles include mom, coach and adventurer? For athlete Shannon Mahre, a 40+ mile journey through the Grand Canyon in one day was the ultimate challenge. She shares with us how she found freedom – and acceptance – along the way.
Like many women, my ultra trail running journey didn’t begin until after I became a mom, in my 30’s and as a way to gain a bit of freedom after bringing a beautiful being into this world. After having our first son (who just turned 6), I ran my first mountain marathon at 4 months postpartum, then I began dabbling in 50K’s, and eventually entered and podiumed in my first 50 mile trail ultra. Kiddo number two brought on a zest for more mountain adventures in a bit of a different way — I stepped away from racing and began guiding – and turned my focus towards adventure runs with my friends instead of chasing podiums.
As a coach, photographer, writer, multi-business owner, wife and constant kiddo, dog and horse wrangler, my life is full. My happy hour, my girl time, is spent doing the sports that I love and that I coach with the people that I love — skiing, mountain biking, stand up paddleboarding and trail running. So when I came up with the crazy idea to plan a trip to the Grand Canyon and take on Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim, I knew just who to call… and boy, would we have the adventure of a lifetime together.
At 4am the day of our journey, my friends Mary, Solveig and I began our descent into the Grand Canyon from the South Kaibab Trailhead. Traveling downhill by headlamp, poles in hand and smiles on our faces, we wound our way down to the Colorado River. After passing Phantom Ranch, we began our 8 mile run up river to Manzanita, where our ascent up to the top of the North Rim would begin. Red rocks and dirt, cactus and desert beauty welcomed us along the way — and so did several water fill-ups and restrooms where we’d find shade for a hot minute before continuing on.
Making our way past rock formations and colors so vibrant that they looked unreal, we chatted our way up switchback after switchback until we found ourselves in a forest full of fall colors right as we reached our turnaround point — the top of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. This side of the rim was a stark change from the South, with lush greenery and an almost jungle like feel in places.
After a quick sock change, sandwich chomp, water fill and joke sesh with with a crew that we’d met along the way, we began our descent and return mission to the South Rim. And the unexpected? It was just as breathtaking seeing the route from the opposite direction.
When we got past Phantom Ranch, we made the turn onto the Bright Angel Trail — which would take us our final 8 miles up to the top of the South Rim. Darkness eventually met us with a few miles and seemingly never-ending amount of vert to go, but with friends by each of our sides and fueled by the desire to accomplish this goal together, we made it to the top with hearts full of gratitude and thankfulness for overcoming this insanely hard adventure together.
7 years ago, I didn’t have the confidence to wear shorts in public let alone head out on a journey such as the Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim. But since then, I have not only learned to love myself for who I am and what I look like in this exact moment, but I’ve also learned that the older you get, the more that you need to focus on growth, on learning and on getting past any fears of failure that may creep up along the way.
So if you see me on the trail now, if it’s even remotely warm, I’ll be in shorts, cellulite and all, with a big ol’ smile on my face — because now, the trail, the adventures, and the goals I set are to bring me joy and to help me grow not only as an athlete, but as a coach, a mother, a friend and a wife. The drive to impress, to compete, to be the best is no longer — but the drive to be me is here to stay.
Shannon Mahre is a 4 season coach + athlete and owner of Girls with Grit, a women’s adventure company that offers ski, mountain bike, stand up paddle board and trail running/endurance clinics, lessons & retreats for women all over the Pacific Northwest. As a mother of two young boys that are her constant companions, family always comes first, but as a woman, she is determined to not lose sight of her goals and passions. Learn more about Shannon at shannonskouras.com